Tabletop Thursday: Settlers of Catan

Editor’s note: Tabletop Thursday is a column by staff writer Danny Susco about tabletop gaming in Athens. This is the second installment in the series.

Once upon a time, our distant ancestors arrived on this continent, and immediately divided it up into hexagonal sections, each of which produced resources. Then, using a combination of lumber, wheat, brick, sheep, and iron, they founded settlements and built roads, before relentlessly terrorizing each other by blocking all of their brick production.

Such a world is the world of Settlers of Catan.

The game, a product of Klaus Teuber games, is one of the most popular of all time, praised by such publications as the Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post. It is a multiple award winner in Germany, receiving Game of the Year from Kritikerpreis in 1995, First Place from Deutscher Spielepreis in 1995, Best Game Rules from Essener Feder in 1995, and Game of the Year from Wiener Spiele Akademie in 2001.

One has to believe that, with so much attention, the Germans must be on to something.

With that in mind, I borrowed a copy, gathered a few friends, and hopped right in.

PLAYING THE GAME

Set-up was difficult. It took me, and I am not kidding, half an hour to actually set up the board correctly (which I later found out was kind of silly, because you can just randomly toss out the hexagon tiles and set up the board, but since I was but a lowly noob, I used the diagram that they suggest for new players in the instruction book).

Behold the greatest difficulty of he game.

Behold the greatest difficulty of the game.

Thank goodness we had an experienced Catan player with us, or it may have taken longer to sort out what each turn entails. To be fair, that is all on me. Once the rules were explained (which did not take very long), we new players had a pretty good grasp on how to play the game.

We launched eagerly into building, roads and settlements springing up with abandon. Well, that is, except for me, because I neglected to put myself near all the resources useful for building things. I sat around, buying development cards, until someone finally beat the ever-loving crap out of me and two of my friends by winning the game.

So, how did the game strike me?

Well, I found the game very fun, in spite of my crushing defeat. Despite my difficulties with setup, I found the game easy to learn, fairly straightforward to win, and took a medium amount of time to play – about an hour or so from the first die roll.

In addition, the potential of puns based on wood and sheep were plentiful and magnificent.

Pictured: the pinnacle of humor

Pictured: the pinnacle of humor

THE CATCH

The catch is that this game, while technically playable by only two people, should not be played by two people who are at all sensitive to being targeted, and most of it revolves around one guy: the Robber.

Behold the face of true evil.

Behold, the face of true evil.

Subsequent plays with only one opponent quickly devolved into bitter conflict every time the Robber was moved, blocking one or the other player’s best resources and stealing even more.

The rest of the bitterness evolved when I played a little card called “Monopoly.” This would steal a certain resource from all players, but with only two people, my opponent ended up screwed most royally as I rocketed to victory, leaving a trail of wood and sheep behind me.

He he. Wood.

Hehe. Wood.

Sample FB: Ever feel like, no matter where you settle down, you still can’t get some dang sheep? Tabletop Thursday does – Tabletop Thursday plays Settlers of Catan.

Sample Tweet: Who has sheep for my wood? Tabletop Thursday plays Settlers of Catan.

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